My final blog of the year and what an interesting finish, particularly in two areas of significant change.

The new government is really making waves. Nicola Willis calling out the issue of the Interislander project cost blow out, repealing of the Fair Pay legislation, and a change to the deadline requirement that road controlling authorities must put speed management plans in place, have occurred in a matter of weeks.

The talks with ministries and agencies have also dramatically changed – they are now much more focused on cost, value for money, and achieving multiple outcomes rather than a singular focus, particularly on safety. I have never seen such a stark contrast, let alone things happening at this pace, so in that regard I’m impressed.

At last week’s presentation on the Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries, MPI Director-General Ray Smith spoke about trends that the sector has been through. One of the graphs illustrated a significant bump in recent years and, more importantly, that the bump had passed and the sector now appears to be returning to normality. I took out of this that those still involved in the sector should take some consolation and comfort in having ridden out the worst conditions. That is not to say the short to medium-term outlook will be easy, and I agree with economist Cam Bagrie’s predictions that in our sector we still have a period of headwinds to navigate, but I do get the sense that relatively speaking, the extraordinary challenges coming out of Covid have peaked and we also are through the worst.

It has certainly been a challenging year for everybody – extreme weather, economic uncertainty, and the rising cost of living have been just some of headaches members have had to confront.

It is no wonder that we’re all looking forward to a relaxing Christmas and New Year. Of course, for road transport operators, there is no let-up: Trucks keep rolling 24/7, keeping the supermarkets and retail stores stocked, and the nation’s economy and export sector ticking over.

I’m mindful our team gets to take a break over the festive season but road transport doesn’t stop and keeps the economy going. There will be a lot of activity on the road so our team has put together some commonsense tips to make sure that your festive season is as stress-free as possible and that you stay safe on the road.

Concentrate. Instead of worrying about all the tasks you have to get done by Christmas, try to concentrate and stay focused on the task at hand – especially if it involves being behind the wheel of a vehicle, be it a car or a heavy truck. Avoid distractions. Expect the unexpected and watch out for risk-taking behaviour. If you spot dangerous driving, call *555 (from your hands-free phone).

Be patient. Let others rush. If roads are congested, there is nothing you can do. Keep calm. Giving way to other drivers is not a sign of weakness, and courtesy and a friendly wave can go a long way. Isn’t it amazing how everyone seems to be in a rush just before Christmas – and then as soon as the big day is over, the country goes into collective relaxation mode? 

Get enough rest and relaxation. Are you getting enough sleep? Fatigue is a serious problem for professional drivers throughout the year but it is likely to be worse in the hectic time before the Christmas and summer break. Be kind to yourself and get some decent rest. Try to switch off now and then. (Obviously, not while you’re driving!)

Eat well. Stay hydrated. With Christmas parties in full swing, soon to be followed by more New Year celebrations, it’s easy to overindulge, but you will feel a lot better if you don’t. Remember to drink enough water. Don’t go to the other extreme and starve yourself on a long drive. Have regular breaks and stock up on energy snacks like bananas and dark chocolate. Put together a scroggin mix (like nuts, dates, and chocolate), and keep it handy.

Exercise. Looking after yourself, mentally and physically, makes you more alert and better able to handle stress. Don’t have time? Even a walk across the park or around the block can make a difference. Health experts agree that any regular exercise, whether it’s gentle or more strenuous, helps improve markers such as cardiovascular health and blood pressure.

Plan ahead. Is it too soon to talk about New Year’s resolutions? Yikes! Here’s an easy one: Promise yourself you will set aside some time over the next few weeks to plan ahead and work out your top priorities for the coming year – whether it’s a business goal or a personal project. Having a plan can help you tackle problems more easily when they arise by staying positive and looking forward to the high points.

I would like to thank all members, commercial partners, staff, and contractors for their support and their hard work and commitment this year – and wish everyone a very safe and Happy Christmas and New Year!

Dispatch will be back again on January 8, but our regional sector advisor team is available for urgent matters. See our website for contact details.

Please note: The content of this Advisory has been issued to inform members of Transporting New Zealand. It is for road freight transport industry circulation, not for media publication. It can be forwarded in its entirety to members of Transporting New Zealand. It cannot be reproduced, or printed in parts, under any logo other than Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand’s logo, without written permission from Transporting New Zealand.